American journal of physical anthropology

Nutritional benefits of Crematogaster mimosae ants and Acacia drepanolobium gum for patas monkeys and vervets in Laikipia, Kenya.

PMID 23280312


Patas monkeys (Erythrocebus patas) are midsized primates that feed extensively on the gum of Acacia drepanolobium and the ants are housed in swollen thorns of this Acacia. Their diet resembles that expected more of smaller bodied primates. Patas monkeys are also more like smaller bodied primates in reproducing at high rates. We sought to better understand the convergence of patas monkeys with smaller bodied primates by comparing their feeding behavior on ants and gum with that of closely related, sympatric vervets (Chlorocebus pygerythrus), and analyzing the nutrient content of the gum of A. drepanolobium and of Crematogaster mimosae, the most common ant species eaten by patas monkeys in Laikipia, Kenya. All occurrences of feeding and moving during focal animal sampling revealed that 1) patas monkeys seek A. drepanolobium gum but vervets avoid it; 2) both species open swollen thorns most often in the morning when antsare less active; 3) patas monkeys continually feed onswollen thorns and gum while moving quickly throughout the day, whereas vervets reduce their consumption of these items and their travel rate at mid-day, and; 4) vervets eat young swollen thorns at a higher rate than patas monkeys. Patas monkeys are able to spend little time acquiring substantial amounts of energy, protein, and minerals from A. drepanolobium gum and C. mimosae ants each day. These findings, when coupled with evidence of causes of infant and adult female mortality, suggest that reproductive success of female patas monkeys is more immediately affected by illness, disease, interactions between adults and infants, and access to water than by food.